Could Interior Design be the cure?

Recently i have been fixated on the idea that interior design could be the hidden answer. The idea that design could reform offenders, and cure the ill and mentally ill is something which i want to look deeper into to see if this could truly make a huge change.

Of course for any good design practice psychology must be understood to a degree in order to know how colours, tones, shapes etc. can have an impact on how the user is feeling. However, in this case the user is much more extreme, the level of the design psychology must affect the users sub-conscious mind so much so to reform them and give them hope for the future. Users include prisoners serving life sentences behind bars, although it may be thought that there is no hope for such offenders, design would have such an impact that the offenders would see the good in the bad and start to think of life differently. Giving the latter the opportunity to choose their surroundings, and even participate in the design process will put them in charge of their lives in seclusion.

People may disagree with the idea of allowing murderers, rapists etc. the opportunity to live in a nice environment, suitable to their personalities, but would rather envisage them in small gloomy rooms with nothing but a cat-flap sized window and a hard concrete floor. However, we cannot argue with psychology, and no matter how bad the offence of the user, design and the world around them would have an undoubted effect on their thoughts and actions.

A huge problem with this theory is of course, perhaps if prisons start to look to good design to reform offenders, would this not be a gateway for them to continue re-offending? The answer is no, but maybe? but no. In fact 1% of Americas whole population are in the criminal justice system in the US, and 75% of the incarcerated reenter the system within just five years of their release. Okay so this is just one statistic, but it does show that offenders may re-offend regardless of the intended unattractive design, and perhaps feel more comfortable with their offences in a miserable dark room.

Our approach of administering punishment instead of rehabilitation and reintegration isn’t working.

One prison which has already began trying to change the inmates experience through architecture and design is the Las Colinas Detention & Reentry Facility in San Diego, designed in partnership with KMD and HMC Architects. This is a revolution, and a one of a kind prison in the U.S which understands the effect of environmental and behavioural psychology in order to improve the quality of life and work inside of the facility for inmates and staff.


San Diego Women's Detention Facility
San Diego Women’s Detention Facility, Location: Santee, CA, Architect: HMC Architects


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